A very happy New Year! We’re going into 2020 with confidence: funding is assured for the community rail partnership and work is going ahead with the renovation of the main building on Bolton’s platforms 4 and 5. This is an update on what’s happening with an invitation to get involved in our activities. Please note our website will soon go live: www.communityrailbolton.org.uk
Christmas Market – and the future
We had 20 stalls at our Christmas Market on December 14th – a big thanks to all for braving the chilly weather. We can count it a ‘qualified success’ – numbers getting on and off trains were not as many as we’d hoped and we were over-ambitious in the length of time the market ran for. So next time we’ll look at a shorter event, in warmer weather. Easter is late this year, so perhaps an ‘Easter Bonnet’ event, with a summer gala in late June.
Christmas Walk around Entwistle
Our walk with Bolton City of Sanctuary on December 28th was a delight. We had 20 people on the walk including some Nigerian boys who had never been on a train before! The weather was kind and the 2-mile walk around Entwistle Reservoir introduced several people to one of the loveliest parts of Lancashire. Lunch at The Strawbury Duck went down well and we enjoyed the newly-introduced class 158 trains – very comfy. Many thanks to Northern for their assistance with the event.
Community Rail Officer Post
We now have funding in place to advertise a full-time ‘Community Rail Development Officer’ post for the CRP. Adverts will be going out shortly and initial expressions of interest (to send papers to) can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. The post will be based at Bolton station but the area covered extends to Wigan, Preston and Manchester. We would emphasise that it isn’t a technical ‘railway’ job – we are looking for someone with community development skills. The main funders of the post are: Northern; CrossCountry; Bolton at Home; Avanti West Coast. A very big thanks to all of you. We’d also like to thank TransPennine Express and Network Rail for the support they’ve been giving us over the last year.
Monday February 3rd sees our next main events. On Monday afternoon, from 14.00, it’s the steering group for the community rail partnership. At 18.00 same day it’s the AGM of Bolton Station Community Development Partnership. Our guest speaker is Darren Knight, chief executive of Bolton Community and Voluntary Services, speaking on ‘Prospects for the Voluntary Sector in Bolton’. All welcome but only members can vote. Membership is free – let us know if you’d like to join using the form at the end of this update. Both events are in the Community Room on Platform 5. Please tell the friendly barrier staff that you’re going to the meeting and they will let you through.
The gallery is currently closed for further improvement work. Phil is on his hands and knees painting the floor, a good hard-wearing ‘railway grey’. We’ve several expressions of interest from local artists who want to exhibit, and we’ll publish an exhibition calendar soon. We want to repeat last year’s exhibition of Railway Workers’ Art later in the year.
Calling all poets
Following the successful launch of the four poems on platforms 3 and 4 (by Allen Clarke, Edwin Waugh and Walt Whitman), we are hoping to install more poems on the remaining pillars. We will shortly be announcing a poetry competition so we can display the best in the available spaces. But we could look at publishing other entries in a ‘slim volume’ later this year.
A lot of work is going on with renovations to the main building on platform 4/5, being undertaken mainly by TMT. It is hoped that work will be finished by mid-May allowing the exciting projects we’re developing with the University of Bolton to move forward. We are hoping to get additional funding for a lift to make the upstairs space fully accessible. The commercial unit on Platform 4/5 should (we hope) be let very soon, offering some very useful and good quality facilities on the northbound platforms.
The General Election
Seems a long time ago now! Obviously, we are strictly non-party political and fully committed to working ith elected representatives of all parties (or none). We would like to acknowledge our great thanks to Sir David Crausby, MP for Bolton North-east for many years, who lost his seat. David had been a staunch supporter of the station partnership and CRP and we wish him well for the future. We also would liek to extend a warm welcome to Mark Logan, who takes over as MP for that constituency. Chris Green for Bolton West and Yasmin Quereshi for Bolton South-East were both re-elected. Our congratulations to both.
Clock Tower Trails
We have developed ideas for a series of self-guided walks from Bolton Station (by the old ‘clock tower’) which follow the railway routes (using public rights of way) to Preston, Wigan, Blackburn and Manchester. We are at the early stages of devising routes which take in places of historic interest, great scenery, and nice pubs and cafes. We intend to apply for funding to take this forward but would like to hear from anyone interested in being involved.
Timetable changes and new trains
Bolton and routes to Manchester and Wigan had some changes in December. Bolton now has two direct train services each hour to Southport, which is a major improvement. The down-side is that passengers for the south, using Wigan North Western, now have to cross the road from Wallgate. Bolton now has regular services, operated by TransPennine Express, to Glasgow and Edinburgh. As with our friends in Bolton Rail users Group, we’d like to see all of these trains stopping at Bolton – currently some sail through non-stop. The more people who use the existing Scottish trains the better our chance of persuading TPE to stop all of them. Remember that you can’t use the trains for local journeys to/from Manchester.
Another welcome feature of recent months has been the gradual introduction of brand-new trains. Most of the Blackpool trains are now operated by electric class 331s. Most peak hour services run as six-car formations giving much-needed extra capacity. TransPennine Express is also introducing very sleek new trains to its Scottish services, the Hitachi class 802s.
There’s been media speculation about Metrolink coming to Bolton: let’s hope it happens but don’t hold your breath (pity the old Bolton Great Moor St – Manchester route via Plodder Lane has gone!)
Paul, chair of the CRP, gave a presentation to Transport for Greater Manchester’s annual ‘community rail conference’ at Smithy Bridge recently. We very much welcome all the help we get from TfGM and the day was a means of developing contacts with other groups across Greater Manchester. We will shortly be hosting visits to Bolton by station friends from Urmston and Heaton Chapel as a result of the event. Our programme of days out to other community projects will re-start in Spring and likely trips include Mytholmroyd and Glossop. Both the CRP and station partnership are members of the Association of Community Rail Partnership and we’ll be taking an active part in ACoRP events over the year.
Whilst we’re committed to networking with community rail groups across the North and the UK as a whole, we are also very keen to build links with the local voluntary sector and welcome invitations to others’ events, either as speakers or just coming along to activities.